Last week I went to Seoul for teacher training. I came back with new friends, a pair of climbing shoes and a kitten. The friends came from the training. For one week public school foreign teachers from around Korea were bundled together in a dormitory-filled building for thorough, well-meaning institutionalisation.

During this week it occurred to me that there should be a joke starting ‘how many teachers does it take to make a power point presentation?’ but I’ve yet to find one.

I can answer other questions, like ‘how do you inspire English teachers?’ Answer one:  Find some great speakers to give them inspirational lectures. Answer two: Remind them how it feels to be legally coerced into attending lots of lectures and make some of those lectures dull… It was in the wallows of compulsory dullness that my fifteen year old self resurfaced, at her sullen, chair-swinging, doodle-drawing best. I had to remind myself seriously to behave like the grown up I’m supposed to be, and swore then to make my lessons interesting if it kills me.

By the final Friday I had remembered what I like about cities: cool cafés, an abundance of people, and the feeling that anything is possible and everything exists.  Walking down a market street in the sunshine, having discovered climbing shoes that fit (in that toe numbing way they’re apparently supposed to), I only just noticed the small creature crawling towards the road.


It took a second look to realise that the creature was a small, black and white, dirty kitten who was clearly sick and very thin. I was told by a well-meaning old Korean lady who was trying to feed her milk (or drown her, it wasn’t quite clear), that she didn’t have a Mama. My first thought to myself was ‘you’re not taking her home’ only to be found hours later – having ascertained that Korean animal shelters kill unclaimed animals after ten days – clutching the little beast to my chest while boarding the train for Busan. Cats are considered vermin by many older Korean people and our journey was accompanied by a few reassuring ‘crazy foreigner’ glances.

So, my climbing weekend turned into a kitten caring weekend, and extended into the week. She’s called Soul and she lives, much to the vet’s surprise. Thus it is I find myself awakening to clean up poo, pick fish bones out of mackerel and syringe medicine into her reluctant mouth. She celebrates her health by lying on my lap less – instead waging war with her new nemesis ‘THE RUCKSACK STRAP’ or stalking my feet from her under-the-bed lair.